Indian Cinema With an Indie Sensibility

Starting with the pride of place given the digestive problem of the title, “Delhi Belly” thumbs its nose at propriety. Delhi belly, the traveler’s curse, afflicts a homegrown son (Kunaal Roy Kapur) in this caper comedy after he eats some particularly nasty street food. (The film lovingly shows just how unhygienic it is.) His stool sample, no less, is the trigger that sets the plot in motion, when it is accidentally switched with a similar-size package of contraband. Not what the gangster ordered …
Your average American sitcom, let alone summer comedy, outdoes “Delhi Belly” in rudeness and crudeness, though its graphic language and sexual candor are unusual for an Indian movie. It’s probably no accident that the screenwriter, Akshat Verma, went to film school in Los Angeles and that much of this film is in English.

Mr. Verma weaves a tight comic plot around three roommates — a journalist, a graphic artist and a photographer (Imran Khan, Vir Das and Mr. Kapur) — who are chased around Delhi by gangsters after that stool sample mix-up. The film revels in our heroes’ grungy milieu, with particular emphasis on their rickety bathroom. But it also shows, perceptively and often sweetly, a broader slice of young, urban, educated life in India as the three deal with careers, love and happiness.

This isn’t the first movie to inject an indie sensibility into commercial Indian cinema. But “Delhi Belly,” which has the Bollywood star Aamir Khan as a producer (that’s him gyrating as the Disco Fighter in a spoofy musical number), does it with assurance. And that impresses more than its dirty talk and potty humor.

Directed by Abhinay Deo; written by Akshat Verma;

WITH: Imran Khan (Tashi), Kunaal Roy Kapur (Nitin) and Vir Das (Arup).


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